WHAT YOU SHOULD KNOW:
Diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA) is a life-threatening condition that happens when diabetes is not controlled. Your blood sugar level becomes dangerously high because your body does not have enough insulin. Insulin is a hormone that helps your body take sugar out of your blood and use it for energy. The lack of insulin forces your body to use fat instead of sugar for energy. As fats are broken down, they leave chemicals called ketones that build up in your blood. Ketones are dangerous at high levels.
- Insulin: Insulin decreases the amount of sugar in your blood. It helps your body move the sugar into your cells, where it is needed for energy.
- Take your medicine as directed. Call your healthcare provider if you think your medicine is not helping or if you have side effects. Tell him if you are allergic to any medicine. Keep a list of the medicines, vitamins, and herbs you take. Include the amounts, and when and why you take them. Bring the list or the pill bottles to follow-up visits. Carry your medicine list with you in case of an emergency.
Follow up with your diabetes specialist or healthcare provider as directed:
You may need blood tests many times a year to check the function of your pancreas. Write down your questions so you remember to ask them during your visits.
Prevent diabetic ketoacidosis:
The best way to prevent DKA is to control your diabetes. Ask your healthcare provider or diabetes specialist for more information on managing your diabetes. The following may help decrease your risk for DKA:
- Check your blood sugar levels: You may need to check your blood sugar level at least 3 times each day. Follow instructions about when and how often to check during the day. If your blood sugar level is too high, give yourself insulin as directed by your healthcare provider. He can show you how to use a blood glucose monitor to check your levels.
- Check for ketones: Follow instructions about when you should check your blood or urine for ketones. Your healthcare provider may give you a machine to check your blood ketones. Urine ketones can be checked with sticks you dip in your urine. Do not exercise if you have ketones in your urine or blood.
- Know how to manage sick days: When you are sick, you may not eat as much as you normally would. You may need to change the amount of insulin you give yourself. You will need to check your blood sugar level more often. You may also need to check for ketones. Make a plan with your healthcare provider about how to manage your diabetes when you are sick.
- Know how to treat DKA: If you have signs of DKA, drink more liquids that do not contain sugar, such as water and diet soda. Take your insulin as directed by your healthcare provider.
- Call your diabetes team when needed: Ask your healthcare provider about a diabetes team that you can call for help. Call the team if your blood sugar level is high, or you have ketones in your blood or urine. The team is available for any questions or concerns you have about your diabetes.
Contact your healthcare provider if:
- Your blood sugar level is lower or higher than your healthcare provider says it should be.
- You have ketones in your blood or urine.
- You have a fever or chills.
- You are more thirsty than usual.
- You are urinating more often than usual.
- You have questions or concerns about your condition or care.
Return to the emergency department if:
- You have fruity, sweet breath.
- You have severe, new stomach pain and are vomiting.
- You are more drowsy than usual.
- You begin to breathe fast, or are short of breath.
- You become weak and confused.
- You have a seizure.
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The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.
Learn more about Diabetic Ketoacidosis (Aftercare Instructions)
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